Big Ten Reaches Big Finish
Big Ten Reaches Big Finish
It’s a strange journey to the Big Ten Universities championship game as the team without any losses, Indiana, has to stay home.
Indiana is denied the post-season because they used ineligible players last season. But what that does is open up the championship game to other teams. This weekend we find out which teams that will be. The key shames are Michigan at Ohio State, and Wisconsin at Minnesota.
Ohio State is 3-2 but can still get into the top two eligible teams if they beat Michigan and the bonus points fall their way. The same goes for 3-2 Minnesota against Wisconsin. However, it’s more likely that Michigan (4-1) and Wisconsin (4-1) will hold on.
“We need to do what we’ve done all season,” said Michigan Coach Brandon Sparks, who is in his first season with the team. “When we play defense, win the point of contact and play fast, fun rugby, we do well.”
Joel Conzelmann’s goalkicking has been a boost to Michigan, while Chening Duker and Cooper Smart have been their top try-scorers. However, Michigan spreads the scoring wealth around.
Ohio State has had a strong season despite dealing with illness early in the season. Jojo Eramo leads the team with nine tries in conference play, with Luke Hickey close behind. The Buckeyes, it seems, are close to being back to the level they played at ten years ago. And the future looks bright, too. The Big Ten has a very vibrant B-side league (called the Development League), and there Ohio State has dominated, going 5-0. Jake Berline has more than twice the points of any other player in the D-league, with Cody Sheets leading the league in tries with seven.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin features an impressive offense. The only team they’ve lost to is Michigan, and they are scoring 44 points a game. Tyler Crass leads the way in scoring, but 16 different players have touched down for the Badgers.
“We feel good going into this game,” said club president Dan Gaenslen. “We are confident and inspired by knowing that if we want to be playing in Rockford next week, we need to take care of business first. The past few weeks we have focused on defense organization and scrums, and a lot of conditioning.”
What has also helped the Badgers was a week off, which they used to just heal up.
Notes: Also on the slate, Indiana can finish undefeated with a win over Purdue, and Illinois (1-4) faces Michigan State (1-4). Iowa ends their season with a forfeit win over Nebraska. Iowa players lead the conference stats, with Taylor Young's 64 points leading the Big Ten, and David Ryberg's 12 tries also tops. But with those two players not getting to add to their totals, they can be overtaken. Indiana's Jake Hidalgo is one try behind Ryberg and should score once or twice against Purdue. Both Hidalgo and Indiana's Teddy Terezis could bypass Young for the scoring title, as could Michigan's Conzelmann.